Things to Do

Reference guide to Phong Nha 2019 [with maps and multi-day plan]

Are you still debating in case you ought to go to Phong Nha in Vietnam? Is it value the additional mile?

I decided to write this guide to Phòng Nha to present how this distinctive location has something for everybody – huge caves, superb surroundings, journey, rural countryside, great food, group feel, and local participation.

And you recognize the perfect thing. I have completed this journey in 2019, so no previous stuff round

Tourism in Phong Nha remains small in contrast to websites like Halong Bay, Sapa and Phu Quoc Island.

Yet what it provides completely blew me away. It isn’t a fast place to get to – too far for a day trip – and national park tours usually are not low cost in contrast to others in Southeast Asia.

However you will not be preventing crowds in Phong Nha nor gazing piles of rubbish. The park is run the best way it ought to be: offering gainful employment to locals whereas being aware of environmental impression.

Tour corporations are eager for feedback. Individuals are pleased with the park and attempt to keep its pure state, one thing that’s lacking at numerous tourist places and which I really appreciated. A very raw, authentic jungle and caving experience!

And now let’s get into the meaty guide, beginning with greatest areas of Phong Nha to end in a recommend Three-days journey.

Map of Phong Nha – very useful during my trip

These are my prime recommended areas to go to in Phong Nha

  • National Park:
    • Phong Nha Cave: Discovered in 1899, used as a hospital/storage website through the Vietnam struggle (and closely bombed during that point). Entry by boat tour from the park entrance. A river runs by means of the cave however you will get out on and walk around on a large bank inside.
    • Paradise cave: Discovered in 2005, this dry cave incorporates an extended boardwalk from which you’ll be able to see many cathedrals of stalagmites and stalactites. Stroll to the cave from the primary entrance or you possibly can take a buggy automotive.
  • Phong Nha Village: ATM, restaurants, motorcycle leases and tour workplaces (although you possibly can e-book and lease these by means of your lodge), kayaks for lease at Victory Villas.
  • Bong Lai Valley: rural Vietnamese countryside, this valley makes for a soothing day exploring local stops along the best way:
    • “Duck Stop” – enjoyable and bizarre – you’ll be able to journey a buffalo via the sector and free your personal duck.
    • “Pub with Cold Beer” – swing in a hammock or play some pool overlooking the river. You may as well rent a tube for 20,000 VND to float within the river.
    • “Moi Moi” restaurant – a shaded and breezy spot by the fields, their specialty is pork in bamboo leaves. This combined with muoi cheo – a cilantro sauce native to Phong Nha, won’t disappoint.
  • Bucket listing for subsequent time:
    • Darkish Cave: activities here embrace swimming within the river, exploring the cave and rolling within the mud.
    • “Wild Boar Eco Farm” – a scenic free-range wild boar farm offering native food, hammocks, and a tree swing overlooking Bong Lai valley
    • Other caves: Tien Son Cave, Grasp En, Grasp Va, Cling Tien, Tu Lan Cave, just to identify a couple of!

Phong Nha Ke Bang houses the most important cave on the planet, Grasp Son Doong. Gaining worldwide recognition in 2009 after being explored by the British Analysis Caving Affiliation, this cave houses fossils, forests, and endemic animal species.

Phong Nha Cave

Phong Nha Cave

The Cable automotive undertaking in Phong Nha

There has been ongoing controversy surrounding a cable automotive undertaking since 2014 when improvement proposals began.

A social motion referred to as “Save Son Doong” began in 2014. Cave activist Le Nguyen Thien Hung has raised over 170,000 signatures on a petition opposed to the development proposal.

Regardless of environmental activism, some help the challenge, as the traditionally impoverished area would experience some economic benefits.

Quang Binh’s Individuals’s Committee, pressured by native and worldwide opposition, has said that the cable automotive venture will only be carried out if UNESCO endorses the challenge.

In 2017 UNESCO requested permanent cancellation of cable automotive plans.

There’s concern of the injury a cable automotive would cause to the fragile ecosystem of the caves, grottoes, and rivers. The towers constructed to hold a cable automotive might cause the ceiling of Son Doong to collapse.

As lately as April 2019 a spokesperson for Quang Binh Individuals’s Committee said that no plans for cable automotive have been accredited.

Phong Nha countryside

Phong Nha countryside

Whereas good news, there’ll probably be extra proposals sooner or later.

International and native opposition have brought attention to the pristine yet fragile setting of Son Doong and the government just isn’t shifting forward with plans (for now).

Do-it-yourself cave exploration

To have the opportunity to pull up, pay the charge, and walk or boat into colossal and beautiful caves like Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave and Darkish Cave is an extremely distinctive expertise.

The accessibility of those caves mixed with minimal tourists permits you to absolutely recognize the splendour of your environment.

Phrases don’t do the surroundings justice.

Phong Nha cave excursions

The primary tour corporations in Phong Nha are

  • Oxalis
  • Jungle Boss
  • Phong Nha Discovery
  • Greenland Tours

with the primary two being probably the most well-known. All corporations supply totally different excursions so that certain areas aren’t overused.

Whether you do a day trip or an overnighter, a tour is an absolute should on a visit to Phong Nha and though not low cost, it’s well worth the worth (~1,650,000 VND for a day trip).

Excursions permit you to discover rural areas of the park with native guides safely. Guides are a should as unexploded ordnance exists off the trails from heavy bombing in the course of the Vietnam Conflict.

Phong Nha Cave

Phong Nha Cave

Tours are run by native guides, porters, and drivers, who will decide you up at your accommodation and present the whole lot: BBQ lunch, water, and snacks.

Guides converse good English and are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. They value suggestions and want to improve. Tours are no-trace and embrace reusable water bottles and compostable bogs.

You will hike on one of the numerous branches of the Ho Chi Minh Path and view less commonly visited caves and might even swim by means of a pristine cave or lake.

It is an authentic and adventurous means to discover the park.

Rest in Phong Nha

After full days exploring the park, evenings in Phong Nha have a much more chill vibe.

Most lodging embrace outside pools. If you would like to attempt a unique pool, many accommodations (notably Phong Nha Farmstay and its partnerships) permit you to use theirs freely.

You possibly can take within the sunset at a special location every night time in the event you please, although sunsets in the countryside at the farmstay are most visited.

Bong Lai Valley makes for a soothing day spent testing native spots by bike or motorcycle, enjoying native cuisine, having a float in the river, and consuming in the valley scenery.

Phong Nha countryside

Phong Nha countryside

Sustainable improvement and native partnerships

Quang Binh used to be one of many poorest provinces in Vietnam. Residents would hunt within the park and harvest bamboo to make a dwelling.

This is now illegal – park laws are strictly enforced, and poaching comes with a prison sentence. However locals now make a livelihood in more sustainable methods. As mentioned, tours are run by native guides, porters, and drivers.

Farmstays and other accommodations purchase local food and employ local staff. Regionally sourced elements amplify the authenticity of the culinary experience.

Meals waste is given to local households for domestic pork or poultry production.

Within the farmstay area, locals who want to begin their own companies are encouraged to achieve this and to employees them with their very own families and associates.

They remain employed beneath the Phong Nha farmstay umbrella and run their companies as a part of the “Farmstay Village”. This provides them access to an established market and they will study the talents wanted to appeal to and keep comfortable friends.

Farmer in the Phong Nha countryside

Farmer in the Phong Nha countryside

As per the visitphongnha.com web site, “one of our main aims is to support small businesses in the area through homestay accommodation, cultural experiences, and food options.”

It seems to have grow to be a powerful success for the group.  In a rustic that sees many tourists a yr, it’s refreshing to be in an area that’s aware of its impression.

There’s a collective sense that residents really care about and respect the park, and everybody should do their half to keep its natural beauty and marvel for future generations.

  • By Tour: as said on visitphongnha.com, the easiest way (and typically the one method) to see elements of the nationwide park is thru a tour. Day excursions costs begin at approx. 1,650,000 VND. They embrace transportation, park entrance fees, an English-speaking guide, and food. Due to hidden unexploded ordnance from the conflict, trekking by way of Phong Nha and not using a guide shouldn’t be protected.
  • By Scooter: Motorcycle rental prices 150,000 VND/day by way of Thang’s Phong Nha Riders, or you possibly can hire a driver by means of the identical company for 400,000 VND/day. Having a driver is a simple and personalised approach to explore the national park, as you’ll be able to sit again and benefit from the scenery. The driving force will take you wherever you need to go inside the park and surrounding countryside and will watch for you at your stops.
  • By Bicycle: You’ll be able to bicycle by way of Phong Nha village and the countryside, and you possibly can bike by means of the Bong Lai Valley. Nevertheless, the Nationwide park loop is just too lengthy to cycle in at some point. Many lodging do supply the free use of bicycles for getting around the city or countryside.
  • Strolling: Phong Nha Village is walkable. Phong Nha Cave’s boat launch is situated inside the village. There are rice paddies and fields to walk beside within the countryside close to Phong Nha Farmstay. Bong Lai Valley has restaurants and activities which might be inside walking distance however is just too far to walk to the valley from the village.
  • By Personal Transportation: A personal automotive from Phong Nha to Paradise cave will value round 700,000 VND round journey, and 900,000 VND round journey in the event you add in a stop at Darkish Cave. You’ll be able to guide by means of Thang’s Phong Nha Riders, or your lodging can organize a automotive for a similar worth.
The beautiful valley of Phong Nha

The gorgeous valley of Phong Nha

Day 1 – Arrival day

After taking an evening practice from Ninh Binh, I arrived to Phong Nha mid-morning. I recharged and headed for Phong Nha Cave by way of motorcycle taxi.

I paid the doorway charge and took a boat up the river to the cave. This took 2.5 hours roundtrip. Drifting by way of Phong Nha cave, surrounded by the stalagmites and stalactites with vibrant mineral deposits on the limestones – it appeared surreal.

I then headed to Victory Villas for a cocktail and was in a position to take a look at the water buffalo sunning themselves within the area out again.

I walked by way of Phong Nha Village to orientate myself and caught a shuttle bus from the Village back to the farmstay, where they have been serving a gaggle dinner that night time referred to as “Chef’s Table,” with an assortment of local dishes and a chance to converse with fellow park adventurers.

Pool at the stay

A glimpse of the pool at the upscale Victory Villas

Day 2 – Ma Da Valley

I booked the National Park Tour “Ma Da Valley” which concerned 9km of jungle trekking, exploring Elephant Cave (Cling Voi), swimming and cliff leaping in Ma Da Lake, a BBQ lunch, and swimming by means of Tra Ang Cave.

While this appeared like an formidable itinerary on a scorching day, I discovered it to be an outrageously enjoyable experience.

The English speaking guide was distinctive and she and the porters have been very safety acutely aware.

It might have been certainly one of my greatest travel days ever.

Swimming by way of a cave and then turning off your headlamps and swimming again at the hours of darkness as a gaggle – it was a sensory expertise in contrast to something I’ve experienced before.

It was utterly darkish – there was not a single photon of light seen. It felt like I used to be an asteroid floating by way of area.

Strolling again on the Ho Chi Minh Path in the dense humidity made me respect the efforts that Northerners went to through the Warfare.

Unimaginable!

Swimming in Phong Nha

Swimming in Phong Nha

Day 3 – Paradise Cave & Bong Lai Valley

I planned a lighter day and headed again to the park by way of motorcycle taxi to take a look at the beautiful Paradise Cave.

It was gratifying to walk by means of at my very own pace and admire this underground, cathedral-like paradise inside the park.

In the afternoon I cruised by means of the Bong Lai Valley and completely loved my stops, though a day didn’t feel long sufficient!

I might have spent days enjoyable with a chilly beer and having fun with the coolness vibe in the valley.

Next time, I’ll visit Dark Cave and spend a full day exploring the Bong Lai Valley.

Another corner of the amazing Paradise Cave

Another nook of the superb Paradise Cave

Hoi An to Phong Nha

There isn’t any direct bus from Hoi An, nevertheless, you possibly can take a bus to Danang and then transfer to a sleeper bus from Danang to Dong Hoi (the closest town with a big bus station).

Hoang Long journey firm gives a sleeper bus that takes 7-8 hours and there are 6 departures in a 24 hour period. Bus schedules may be found here.

There is a native bus that departs Da Nang at 1300 – tickets may be bought at Da Nang Bus Station. It’ll go to Dong Hoi, where you need to transfer to an area bus to get to Phong Nha.

There isn’t any practice station in Hoi An. The closest station is Danang, and it is an roughly 6.5-hour practice journey Dong Hoi (the nearest practice station to Phong Nha).

There are four departure occasions in a 24 hour period. Should you select this route and arrive in the early morning, it is strongly recommended you organize a personal transfer out of your lodging beforehand (~550,000 VND) and ensure beforehand which you can examine in through the early hours. You’ll be able to view the practice schedules right here.

Hanoi to Phong Nha

The sleeper bus takes 9.5 hours from Hanoi to Dong Hoi. There are three departures in a 24 hour interval. Bus schedules could be found here.

The practice takes 10 hours to get from Hanoi to Dong Hoi, and there are 5 departures in a 24 hour period. You possibly can view the practice schedules here.

Ninh Binh to Phong Nha

The sleeper bus presents 6 departures each 24 hours. It is a 12 hour bus journey.  Bus schedules might be discovered here.

From Ninh Binh to Dong Hoi it is an Eight-9 hour practice journey with three departure occasions in a 24 hour period. You’ll be able to view the practice schedules here.

Phong Nha Cave

Phong Nha Cave

Dong Hoi to Phong Nha

The native bus is reasonable and takes 1.5 hours. It may well drop you off in the countryside by the farmstay or in centre of Phong Nha.

It departs from Ben Xe Nam Ly bus station and is a inexperienced and yellow bus, numbered B4. The bus will say “Dong Hoi – Hoan Lao – Phong Nha” on the window.

The primary trip is at 0530, then 0545, then hourly on the 10 from 0710-1710. From the practice station, you will have to stroll about 15 minutes to Ben Xe Nam Ly bus station which includes crossing a bridge, or you possibly can take a taxi.

Local taxis: Barter with them earlier than you get in in order that you end up paying 400,000-500,000 VND. Shared between individuals, this can be a affordable worth.

Personal transfers start at 500,000 VND – again shared between individuals it’s fairly affordable. Organize this by way of your lodging before you arrive in Dong Hoi.

Motorcycle taxis range between 200,000-250,000 VND. This can be a truthful choice on a fair-weather day, but not really helpful at nighttime or within the rain. Organize via Thang’s Phong Nha Riders beforehand.

I stayed at Phong Nha Farmstay, situated within the countryside about 15 minutes outdoors of Phong Nha village.

I completely loved lounging by the pool within the evenings and watching the sundown. The restaurant had all kinds of foods to go well with most tastes.

The value was affordable, applicable for mid-upper finances travellers. I might advocate spending multiple night time – you need a minimum of three, and even longer, because there are such a lot of superb sights to see through the day and it’s so gratifying to loosen up in the countryside within the night.

The rooms have been snug and the situation had every part one would wish: refillable water stations, meals, swimming pool, laundry, bicycles, and sunsets.

Verify the newest deal on the Farmstay

Phong Nha Farmstay

Phong Nha Farmstay

The concentrate on sustainable partnerships with locals actually caught out to me.

The farmstay follows a “dispersed hotel” model – your room may be in a special homestay (in session with the Farmstay if you make your reserving) but you come to the primary farmstay for use of providers such as the pool, restaurant and laundry.

These collaborative homestay partners can accommodate quite a lot of sizes and requests. This immediately advantages the native homestay house owners and staff.